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January 25.

Conversion of St. Paul.*

This Romish festival was first adopted by the church of Engand in the year 1662, during the reign of Charles II.


Buck and Doe in St. Paul's Cathedral.

Formerly a buck's head was carried in procession at St. Paul's Cathedral. This by some antiquaries is presumed to have been the continuation of a ceremony in more ancient times when, according to certain accounts, a heathen temple existed on that site. It is remarkable that this notion as to the usage is repeated by writers whose experience in other respects has obtained them well-earned ragard: the origin of this custom, is stated by Stow to the following purport.

Mentioning the opinion already noticed, which, strange to tell, has been urged every since his time, he says in its refutation, "But true it is I have read an ancient deed to this effect," and the "effect" is, that in 1274, the dean and chapter of St. Paul's granted twenty-two acres of land, part of their manor of Westley, in Essex, to sir William Baud, knt., for the purpose of being enclosed by him within his park of Curingham; in consideration whereof he undertook to bring to them on the feast day of the Conversion of St. Paul, in winter, a good doe, seasonable and sweet; and upon the feast of the commemoration of St. Paul in the summer, a good buck, and offer the same to be spent (or divided) among the canons resident; the doe to be brought by one man at the hour of procession, and through the procession to the high altar, and the bringer to have nothing; the buck to be brought by all his men in like manner, and they to be paid twelve pence only, by the chamberlain of the church, and no more to be required. For the performance of this annual present of venison, he charged his lands and bound his heirs; and twenty seven years afterwards, his son, sir Walter, confirmed the grant.

The observance of this ceremony, as to the buck, was very curious, and in this manner. On the aforesaid feast-day of the commemoration, the buck being brought up to the steps of the high altar in St. Paul's church at the hour of procession, and the dean and chapter being apparelled in their copes and vestments, with garlands of roses on their heads, they sent the body of the buck to be baked; and having fixed the head on a pole, caused it to be borne before the cross in their procession within the church, until they issued out of the west door. There the keeper that brought it blew "the death of the buck," and then the horners that were about the city answered him in like manner. For this the dean and chapter gave each man fourpence in money and his dinner, and the keeper that brought it was allowed during his abode there, meat, drink and lodging, at the dean and chapter's charges, and five shillings in money at his going away, together with a loaf of bread, with the picture of St. Paul on it. It appears also that the granters of the venison presented to St. Paul's catherdral two special suits of vestments, to be worn by the clergy on those two days; the one being embroidered with bucks, and the other with does.

The translator of Dupre's work on the "Conformity between modern and ancient ceremonies," also misled by other authorities, presumed that the "bringing up a fat buck to the altar of St. Paul's with hunters, horns blowing, &c. in the middle of divine service," was of heathen derivation, whereas we see it was only a provision for a venison feast by the Romish clergy, in return for some waste and of one of their manors.


Mean Temperature   . . .   35 . 10.

Notes [all notes are Hone's unless otherwise indicated]:

1. See vol. i. p. 175 [return]